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HPPA Industry News

  • 10 Mar 2023 9:40 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE, the leading provider of information, marketing, and business management solutions to the promotional products industry, announces the addition of a new web-based supplier center portal.

    The new SAGE Supplier Center web-based platform has all the same functionality as the current Windows-based Supplier Center with a few exciting additions. Through an easy-to-use interface and access to more statistics than ever before, this new portal makes it easier for supplier Advantage Members, including Mac users, to access and update their product data from any device that connects to the internet.

    “Our goal as a technology company has always been to provide solutions. To achieve that, two key factors for distributors and suppliers are ease of use and access to information,” said David Natinsky, President of SAGE. “With this new web-based platform, suppliers can update their product data from anywhere, which helps not only our supplier members but the industry as a whole, making real-time data even more accessible.”

    Additionally, suppliers can view live product and advertising-related statistics right from their dashboard, from distributor and end-buyer product views, and profile views, to progress tracking of their monthly advertising budgets. Additionally, in the Performance & Stats area, suppliers can see a detailed breakdown of their product stats, including their most popular products, product engagement, their product category rankings, and profile engagement stats such as website and email clicks through SAGE Total Access. For suppliers participating in digital advertisements, the My Advertisements tab in the Performance & Stats area provides a detailed analysis of each ad’s performance.

    Suppliers can also now perform distributor searches through the new Supplier Center portal, providing a quick and easy way for suppliers to verify contact information all in one place.

    Another exciting new feature of the Supplier Center portal is the addition of the SAGE Community. SAGE Community has long been available to distributors to network with their industry peers, and it is now open to everyone in the industry. SAGE Community allows suppliers to share industry news, best practices, and connect and engage with other supplier members on hot industry topics.

    The SAGE Supplier Center web portal is available now to all supplier Advantage Members at no additional cost. Simply visit www.sagesuppliercenter.com to log in.

    To learn more about a SAGE Advantage Membership, visit www.sageworld.com.

  • 9 Mar 2023 12:02 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Goodwin will play a pivotal role in identifying growth opportunities for OrderMyGear and guiding company strategy through market research and strategic planning.

    • Since joining OMG in 2019, Goodwin has positioned herself as a trusted strategy and product marketing leader within the company. She is currently leading the integration of OMG and BrightStores following the recent acquisition, bringing together two market leading technology platforms in the sporting goods and promotional products space.
    • “Mykayla has played an enormous role since she started with us in Product Marketing,” said Leonid Rozkin, CEO of OMG. “Her understanding of the industry, our clients, and our solutions is second to none. She was instrumental in helping us identify BrightStores as the ideal acquisition to create the clear leader in online stores. Today she turns her attention to ensuring the success of the integration and will work closely with clients to help us identify ways to continue fueling their growth and make technology easier along the way.”
  • 9 Mar 2023 12:01 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Proforma Color Press has acquired Commander Printed Products, bringing expanded supplier services, local onsite decoration services, greater storage and fulfillment services and a robust e-commerce platform for online company stores.

    • Proforma Color Press is part of the Proforma network of over 500 locations and over $600 million in yearly sales.
    • Commander Printed Products has been in business over 47 years as a long-standing supplier to the local market.
    • “The acquisition of Commander Printed Products is very exciting,” says David Schmaeling, president of Proforma Color Press. “The acquisition offers us a customer base that primarily buys printing the opportunity to offer logo wear, promotional items, local decoration services, storage and fulfillment programs all assisted by Proforma’s e-commerce platform, Prostores.”
  • 9 Mar 2023 11:55 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Living in a time of political, economic and global uncertainty, there are myriad factors that could affect the business practices and well-being of people across all industries, including promotional products.

    On Wednesday, Gemline offered a free webinar with Leon Panetta, the former U.S. secretary of defense and CIA chief. Panetta was the director of the CIA when terrorist Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice. (James Gandolfini played him in the film Zero Dark Thirty).

    Gemline Executive Chair Jonathan Isaacson hosted the webinar, which featured a 30-minute presentation by Panetta covering high-level commentary on some of the biggest topics currently affecting the U.S.. This was followed by a series of questions from Isaacson and attendees watching virtually.

    To watch a recording of the conversation, click here. Below are a few takeaways from the webinar.

    Cyberterrorism Is The “Battlefield Of The Future.”

    PPAI Media has been busy covering cybercrimes in the promotional products industry over the past year. These crimes are typically carried out by criminals with increasing levels of sophistication.

    Panetta called cyberterrorism the “battlefield of the future.” In world where conflict has the possibility of looking very different than it did 30 years ago, hacks and ransomware will be used on governments to gain leverage.

    “It could literally end up paralyzing this country,” Panetta says.

    This would require the highest levels of cybercrime sophistication and technology. If global conflict creates an arms race in the advancements of this dangerous field, then there is likely to be a trickle down that raises the capabilities of the more petty criminals who use these tactics to victimize businesses.

    War In Ukraine Is About The Future Of Democracy In The World

    Characterizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as unjust, Panetta referred to the conflict as “a pivotal war.”

    One year after it started, he is impressed and proud of what the Ukrainians have managed to do to defend themselves and says that such tactics have exposed Russia’s lack of strategic plan.

    “Let’s face it,” Panetta says. “Ukraine is [currently] winning this war, and Russia is losing it.”

    Panetta has met and dealt with Vladimir Putin, and he recommends that the U.S. and other allies continue to give Ukraine all the weapons they need to push Russians back, because Putin will not concede easily.

    “There is no ending that does not involve force,” says Panetta.

    China’s Fundamental Goal Is To Replace The U.S.

    China wants to be the global leader, Panetta says. The country may be strategically restrained in some instances, but it is fairly resilient in its goal to gain competitive advantages over the U.S. Referring to Chinese spy balloons that were eventually detected on U.S. land, Panetta called it “the tip of the iceberg to the efforts they have made to gather intelligence.”

    Panetta says that he has held high-level positions in which the U.S. has dealt with similarly ambitious nations, and that it tends to get worse before eventually getting better, insinuating that we are currently living out the bad phase. He believes that the U.S. has to maintain a healthy dialogue with China, but it must be done from a point of strength because “China cares about China first.”

    Business In China Doesn’t Come Without Risk

    Panetta did not advise against businesses operating out of China, but he was cleverly strategic when discussing a large company having a presence there in the current climate of the two nations’ relationship.

    “I think it would be wise to try to find a way to have a presence there without being so high-profile that you become a target,” Panetta says.

    The dynamic between the two countries is clearly tenuous. It could get worse, but the potential for improvement remains.

    “When we get beyond this stage, economic opportunity is going to grow in this area,” Panetta says.

    The Debt-Ceiling Is A Legitimate Threat

    Many have discussed the possibility and implications of the U.S. hitting the debt ceiling, including PPAI Media. The U.S. sits at approximately $31.5 trillion in debt. That could mean up to $10 trillion of interest in just the next 10 years. 

    Panetta has been party to and actively involved in contentious budgeting issues in the past, all of which were resolved, perhaps not perfectly so but enough to prevent disaster, through some degree of compromise. Unfortunately, he does not see the same type of spirit in today’s government. There is considerably less bipartisanship in most instances of government, leaving less room for compromise.

    “Today, the budget process is broken in Washington,” Panetta says. “Both parties don’t want to confront the hard issues in order to reduce the deficit.”

  • 9 Mar 2023 11:49 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    For the first time since its founding in 1992, BELLA+CANVAS has more than one distribution facility.

    The California-based supplier has opened two new facilities in Las Vegas, Nevada and North East, Maryland that “will help us reach customers faster,” the company announced.

    • Since 1992, BELLA+CANVAS had operated one distribution facility: its original headquarters in Commerce, California.
    • The Commerce facility closed March 3 and operations shifted to the Las Vegas facility, which opened for normal business March 6.
    • The new distribution center in North East, Maryland is fully operational
    On average, orders will be shipped to their final destination throughout the United States in roughly 1-3 days via UPS Ground, the company states.

    The two new facilities total 1.436 million square feet and will be supported by 720 total employees and 300 bots “to assist in the rapid, safe and accurate fulfillment of orders.”

  • 7 Mar 2023 11:40 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Citadel Brands (PPAI 715433, S7) has a new chief executive officer.

    Michael R. Hoffman will take over the role of CEO at the Kingstree, South Carolina-based supplier, which specializes in fleece casualwear and polyester sportswear. The company moved operations to Kingstree from Charlotte, North Carolina last year.

    • With more than 30 years in the industry, Hoffman has held senior leadership positions at major apparel corporations such as Fruit of the Loom and Gildan.
    • As CEO, Hoffman will work closely with the Citadel Brands executive team and employees to develop and execute strategies that will drive continued success.
    • Hoffman will lead the company in enhancing its brand portfolio and customer experiences, expanding its global presence and driving innovation across all business units.

    “We are delighted to welcome Mike to the Citadel Brands family,” says Jawad Jumani, Citadel Brands founder and president. “His deep industry experience, leadership skills, and passion for building exceptional brands make him the ideal leader for Citadel Brands’ future.”

    In addition to its partnerships with multiple U.S. apparel brands, Citadel Brands is the distribution partner for Scotland-based AWDis Brands, a blank apparel supplier that specializes in creating innovative, high-quality products.

    “I am thrilled to join Citadel Brands as its new CEO,” Hoffman says. “The company has a rich history of creating exceptional products that resonate with customers, and I am excited to lead the next phase of growth and success.”

  • 5 Mar 2023 8:07 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    PPAI Media is back once more to unveil promo’s best on social media.

    Today’s list recognizes the industry’s 18 top individual influencers – whether they embrace that term or not – who are crushing it on one or more platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or TikTok). Last Friday we announced the #Online18 Best Organizations On Social Media; in the first six years of this project, organizations and individuals were combined by list organizer Dale Denham, MAS+, now the president and CEO of PPAI. But with PPAI Media taking over the #Online18 for the first time, we’ve split the honors in 2023.

    While everyone wants to see their company and coworkers earn high honors, let’s be honest: Personal branding is the heartbeat of social media. Me, me, me. This is the big one.

    And these folks are good. Not a single one of them will ask that age-old question, “Who sells this pen?” All 18 are consistently giving more than they’re taking, elevating the industry and entertaining or inspiring their fellow pros at the same time.

    Our picks and rankings for both lists were hotly debated by our team in a process using nominations and recommendations from industry insiders, PPAI staff and others, including each of the 2022 honorees. We must note, once again, that this countdown from No. 18 to No. 1 does not include any PPAI staffers. But we’re out there, so please feel free to slide into our DMs.

    An undertaking like this always produces its interesting little side notes. It’s worth mentioning that eight of these 18 individuals are first-timers on our list, 11 are distributors and at least four help to oversee social media at companies that made this year’s list of organizations.

    As far as the leading platform goes, LinkedIn is the clear winner here. While most on this list use at least three social media platforms at least to some degree, all but one hosts their largest audience of followers on LinkedIn. TikTok remains a curiosity for most of the industry’s best, which is just as well, since it might very well be #cancelled soon enough.

    Drumroll, please. Here are this year’s picks for the 2023 #Online18 best social media influencers:


    18. Erin Eberhardt
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 2,150 Followers

    Erin is a new name on our list, but she’s been building a devoted fan base, especially on LinkedIn, for some time now with her pithy and instructive posts. Her content selection and tone make readers feel they are getting some free, expert advice – and that positions her as a pro clients want to work with.

    17. Kirby Hasseman
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: Twitter – 4,654 Followers

    Kirby has long been a favorite on our list – last year he shared spot No. 9 with Bill Petrie. No list of influencers would be complete without him, because his posts are an appealing blend of industry thought-leader, personal coach, skilled distributor and storyteller. There’s always a brilliant takeaway from Kirby’s posts, especially those linking to one of his latest podcasts (Delivering Marketing Joy has more than 430 episodes, and he’s produced The Monday Minute since 2020).

    16. Mitch Silver
    Follow On: LinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 3,022 Followers

    Mitch is another returning favorite to our list (No. 15 last year), and he first grabbed our attention with posts featuring simple and clever images backed up with quick and brilliant points about promo. Mitch knows what he’s doing with social media, and, judging by the number of followers, we’re not the only ones who think so. He also stands out by posting only on LinkedIn – that’s it! When you find something that’s effective, give it everything you’ve got. That’s how Mitch rolls, and it’s working.

    15. Sergio Munoz
    Follow On: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 8,711 Followers

    It’s Sergio’s first time to make our list, and he gets the gold star for having a record number of followers on a single platform. His posts are a fascinating mix of things that are important to him: the promo industry, his employer (Debco), his family and friends. His posts are thoughtful, authentically Sergio with raw enthusiasm and emotion – the kind of posts that draw people in.


    14. Swire Ho
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 2,231 Followers

    Swire is another first-timer who brings his magnetic personality to social media. Among his mix of content is a new blog he and his wife Shirley launched last year called My Promo Story – interviews with an interesting selection of industry folks. His posts also feature The Small Business Show, a live podcast with industry guests. Together, these resources yield a great deal of original content and something new to learn every time we click on Swire’s posts.

    13. Katie Kahler
    Follow On: FacebookInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 1,304 Followers

    For the past couple of years, Katie has been a popular poster with an engaged following, but this is the first time she’s made our list as an individual. However, last year she was recognized when her employer, American Solutions for Business, was ranked No. 1 on our list (it’s No. 4 on this year’s organizational list) thanks in large part to Katie’s creativity. On her own pages, she grabs our attention with eye-catching product videos coupled with plenty of people pics and posts from company and industry events.


    12. Charity Gibson
    Follow On: FacebookTwitter, InstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 2,827 Followers

    One of the industry’s undisputable queens of social media, Charity has been at the top of her game and on our list for years, and few do it better. Not only does she create posts and engaging original videos in which she freely shares her thoughts and expertise (she’s a former distributor turned supplier), along with personal insights as a mom, but she sees social media as a two-way street, posting conversation-starter questions and getting huge engagement. In fact, she’s the only person we know who can publish a text-only post (about Super Bowl commercials) and get 23 comments, 60 likes and 11 shares … and counting! If anything, though, we want more. Charity’s accounts fell mostly quiet for months, but she has re-engaged with emphasis more recently. 


    11. Bill Petrie
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 2,174 Followers

    Bill ranked No. 9 on last year’s list, sharing that spot with Kirby Hasseman largely because of their weekly Promo UPFront podcast, but we felt both guys had truly earned their own ranking this year. Bill knows his followers well and puts in the time to provide highly sharable content that’s educational and thought-provoking, often linking to the podcast he hosts with Kirby or to his Brandivate blog. How did the voting shake out for Bill to earn the higher spot of the two this year? Well, we can’t wait to hear the duo talk it through, but here’s a theory: No matter the topic, Bill is willing to offer a hot take, always bravely putting himself out there in a way we can all relate to. The two make a great pair, however, and their voices are stronger together than apart. (We’re holding thoughts and prayers for Bill’s former Twitter account @billpetrie, which was apparently hacked and became devoted to NFT mining. Cool stuff, Mr. Musk.)

    10. Samantha Fullerton
    Follow On: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 2,529 Followers

    Samantha is a new addition to our list, and we give her props for making it into our top 10 on the first go-round. Her posts bring out her passion for the industry and she knows what her audience wants, with lots of cool products, trend updates and promo ideas crafted to pique the attention of her clients and position her as the promo guru. We love how Samantha rolls!


    9. Jenna Quaranta
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 4,619

    How we have missed including Jenna on our previous lists is a mystery because she’s a true powerhouse on social. She’s the force behind KNOSS Apparel’s formidable presence, which ranked No. 9 on this year’s list of organizations, and most of her posts are co-branded. She loves to share selling hacks and insights about branding and entrepreneurship, as well as fitness, being a mom and other topics. Her huge following on LinkedIn confirms that she’s doing a lot of things right. 


    8. Nick Lateur
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 3,558

    One of the most consistent contributors to social media and No. 6 on last year’s list, Nick has gained a popular following over the years with his quirky and long-running “Monday” video posts (kudos to Nick for maintaining this consistency – that’s hard to do). If your Mondays need a little kickstart, check out Nick’s posts and start the week with a smile.


    7. Nadav Raviv
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 6,024

    The poster’s poster: Nadav is a brand-new face to this list after earning more recommendations from previous #Online18 honorees than any other individual. Nadav has a massive LinkedIn following, which is a true testament to the value of his messaging. Worlds regularly collide on Nadav’s social platforms as he shares personal faves (he’s a huge NASCAR fan) along with shoutouts from industry shows and new product ideas, plus lots of inspiration along the way. Follow Nadav and chances are good that his positive attitude will rub off on you.


    6. Javier Melendez
    Follow On: FacebookInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 883

    There’s probably no one who has mastered the short-form video on social media like Javier. He has a lot of fun with these, and so do his followers (check out the one below). Despite having the second-smallest number of followers on any platform, he moved up from No. 12 last year because we love what he does with video on social media, and so do many of his fellow influencers. Javi is an up-and-coming voice in promo (honored as one of 12 PPAI Magazine Rising Stars last year) who has something to say about an industry that his generation will soon take over.

    5. Meg Erber
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 3,260

    One of our favorites last year (at No. 3), Meg remains in our top five because she’s simply everywhere on social media in such a relatable and enjoyable way. Meg’s posts sport a fun, conversational vibe with content that’s incredibly relevant whether she’s highlighting a recent episode of podcast Industry Insider (she’s one of the hosts), promoting an activity for the industry group PromoCares (she’s a volunteer) or just celebrating the completion of a set of reps at the gym. She always lets us see the real Meg, and that draws us in.

    4. Danny Rosin
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 6,424

    Danny has a whopping 6,424 followers just on LinkedIn (almost 18,500 on all four of his platforms combined), and that alone should qualify him as a top influencer. But he brings so much more to his pages than just numbers. One of the co-founders of BrandFuel (No. 1 on our best organizations list), he’s deeply engaged in the industry and passionate about the causes he and the company support – and he uses social media to share those passions and influence others to join in. We can count on him to be authentic and vulnerable in his posts – it’s a quality that’s earned him a deep and devoted fan base.

    3. Taylor Borst
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 2,911

    If you are not yet following this young dynamo, start today. In short order she’s become the social media face of American Solutions for Business, although her marketing leadership extends far beyond social. She has established herself as perhaps the industry’s leading voice on women’s promo apparel trends and continues to improve and surprise us with killer content. The product videos she does for ASB showcase some of her best work. These are slick in a good way, entertaining and instructive without being salesy. The example below is our latest favorite.  


    2. Josh Pospisil
    Follow On: FacebookLinkedIn
    Largest Account: LinkedIn - 813

    “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” Each week you can count on Josh to post himself wearing a pink shirt or jacket and a huge smile, channeling Mean Girls. It’s his signature post. Sometimes he’s alone or pictured with co-workers (all wearing pink) in the office, at a show or on the road, but if it’s Wednesday, it’s pink day for Josh. Consistency is Josh’s thing, and he’s mastered it, becoming a constant and bright presence in industry feeds. His followers expect it, and he always delivers. He’s also the inspired talent behind his employer, Hirsch, which nailed the No. 13 spot for the first time on this year’s best organizations list. Josh brings a magnetic personality, creativity and loads of personal cred to his own platforms and Hirsch’s.  

    1. Jeremy Picker
    Follow On: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInTikTok
    Largest Account: LinkedIn – 6,326

    What does it take to be the No. 1 individual influencer on the #Online18? There’s not an exact formula. It’s not about having the biggest follower count, or the most posts, or the greatest engagement levels, or the most insightful and interesting posts, or reflecting the industry in a positive light, or modeling industry expertise, or creating content across many platforms … or just sharing cool pictures of branded T-shirts. It’s about all of those things and more, which is what Jeremy brings to the table in an authentic way. His content is always thoughtful and worth sharing, and the greater branded merchandise industry is better off to have him as an unmistakable leading voice.

    Congratulations to all of the #Online18 honorees, and thank you for leading the way as we all work to elevate the conversation around promotional products. Click here to view Part 1 of the #Online18 for 2023, honoring the industry's best organizations of social media.

  • 5 Mar 2023 7:23 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Logomark has made a change in leadership.  

    The California-based supplier has promoted internally, announcing that Clive Goldberg, formerly the company’s chief operating officer, will be taking over as president. Former president Trevor Gnesin will remain in a leadership role with Logomark.

    The Leadership Change

    The move to place Goldberg as the president is less of a leadership shakeup and more of a refiguring of roles and titles.

    • Goldberg joined Logomark in 2019.
    • He was previously serving as the company’s COO.
    • Prior to joining the promotional products world in 2019, Goldberg worked in the automotive parts industry for three decades holding CEO, CFO and COO positions.

    Goldberg has big shoes to fill as he takes over the role for Gnesin, who has over 40 years of experience in the promotional products industry and has owned Logomark since its founding 30 years ago.

    • Gnesin will remain with Logomark as CEO/chairman.
    • In this role, the former president will spend increased time adding new brands to the Logomark portfolio.

    Logomark’s current offerings include gifts, pens, accessories, drinkware, mobile technologies, custom packaging and watches.

    • Goldberg will officially begin his tenure as president on March 1.

    What They’re Saying

    Joining any company in 2019, as Goldberg did, was surely a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic was just around the corner, and there have been waves of global and economic uncertainty since then. Gnesin says that Goldberg’s ability to help Logomark through these times was a factor in the decision to promote him to president.

    “Throughout the challenges that COVID brought, Clive proved his management skills time and again,” Gnesin says. “Through his leadership, we have been able to slash costs and increase EBITDA, improve customer service, better our inventory levels and more, all while retaining 97% of our team and building company morale.”

    For his part, Goldberg seems to feel that this new position will be a continuation of the momentum that he and Logomark have experienced together.

    “I am very excited about my new role with Logomark,” Goldberg says. “Leading the executive management team has been a fulfilling experience as we continue to be creative, innovative and focused on the future.”

  • 5 Mar 2023 7:21 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Friendshoring has already begun.

    Whether promo is keeping up with the latest jargon used to describe the process of moving manufacturing away from politically tumultuous nations like China and into democratically elected countries or nations that the United States has a positive relationship with, the industry does not want to be left behind.

    “It is worth noting that despite the large trade volume with China, it is only the U.S.’s third biggest trading partner,” says Patrick Ward, vice president of marketing at Rootstrap, a custom software development consultancy. “The first two? A perfect example of friendshoring: Canada and Mexico.”

    Indeed, one of promo’s biggest stories of 2023 so far has been HPG’s acquisition of Evans Manufacturing, and Chris Anderson, HPG’s CEO, has stated that a significant motivation behind the move was Evans’ manufacturing operation in Mexico.

    An overreliance on China for manufacturing is not specifically a promo problem. Pick up three items in your office or house, and you’re likely to see the words “Made in China.” It’s the result of decades of international business practices. But the trade tariffs placed on China during the Trump administration followed by the COVID-19 pandemic created supply chain nightmares that even the most creative companies couldn’t expedite.

    Those conditions may well prove to be less of a bump in the road and more of a warning for the future. To call the U.S.’s current relationship with China “unpredictable” would be putting it diplomatically.

    Friendshoring, or its cousin, nearshoring, may prove to be a competitive advantage. Or, it may prove to be a necessity.

    What Is Friendshoring?

    The clearest definition of friendshoring is the practice of relocating supply chains to countries where the risk of disruption from political chaos is low.

    • Tariffs, COVID-19 policies and political differences have created added risks to U.S. companies manufacturing in China.
    • The war in Ukraine has reminded industries of how easily reliance on trade partnerships can be used as political leverage in conflicts between nations.

    Since 2020, it has become commonplace to expect the unexpected when it comes to global affairs and conditions.

    Ward argues that while cheap labor has long made manufacturing in places like China enticing, favorable conditions for trade in neighboring countries have been established since the 1994 NAFTA agreement, “which continues to consolidate the benefits of for U.S. companies working with close allies, not only due to ease of doing business but also reduced transportation and logistical hurdles by working with close allies that are economically tied to the U.S.’s success.”

    • In other words, in uncertain times, rely on your friends, or in this case, the friends of the U.S.

    The promo industry is not particularly unique in how this situation applies to it. The allure of places like China will continue to be cheap labor, while the potential headaches are uncertain. Perhaps the past few years have been a perfect storm of unfavorable global conditions. But “political chaos” will remain a risk in countries the U.S. does not actively consider an ally.

    “Promotional products, being niche in nature and relying on timely delivery to customers, are primed to capture the benefits of friendshoring,” Ward says.

    Small And Mid-Size Companies Can Lead The Way

    In previous decades, large companies had the advantage in decisions like friendshoring, because of the capital they are able to access to make big changes. But, according to Ward, things have changed in today’s contemporary market.

    “The advantage has switched to small to mid-sized companies with more niche products and services along with a lower dependency on manufacturing output,” Ward says. “They are well-poised to capture the benefits of friendshoring due to the innate flexibility of their business models and greater ability to pivot to opportunity.”

    A great case study of this is Alumicolor, a mid-sized supplier based out of Colorado that has manufactured out of the Central American country of El Salvador since 1981.

    • Alumicolor, which specializes in aluminum rulers among other products, found that the factory that makes aluminum for the El Salvadorian construction industry could also manufacture its products.
    • El Salvador’s close proximity to Colorado has reaped benefits for Alumicolor for decades.

    “The reason we find it to be a huge advantage is that we can get the product so much faster,” says Scott Schoenbauer, general manager at Alumicolor.

    • Turnaround times are two or three weeks for Alumicolor orders.
    • The company airfreights all orders because of its affordability at such a short distance.
    • It remains cost-effective to even airfreight small orders of aluminum without having to pass international freighting costs on to customers.

    Although there was a Civil War in El Salvador in the 1980s, the supply chain has been smooth for Alumicolor since manufacturing out of the country. The United States sees El Salvador as an important and willing trade partner.

    “The Salvadoran government recognizes that trade is a very important aspect of their economy,” Schoenbauer says. “They want to have trade happening to the outside world.”

    • Additionally, the factory pays workers more on average than Chinese factories, while labor costs are still cheaper than domestic manufacturing.

    “It’s not like a sweatshop or anything like that,” Schoenbauer says. “We go through an annual audit with [the retailer] Michael’s. It’s like a social accountability audit that they do with all their vendors, and we pass with flying colors. I feel good about that. Whereas in China, you just don’t know.”

    This time one year ago, companies were struggling with logistic nightmares due to supply chain disruption.

    • Alumicolor used the fact that it wasn’t affected by what was going on in China or elsewhere as a selling point.
    • The company’s three-week turnaround was maintained throughout global supply chain disruptions.

    In fact, Schoenbauer says that one of the company’s top competitors reached out because they needed a specific product in a timeframe that would be unattainable without going through Alumicolor Salvadoran factory. Based on that competitive advantage, Alumicolor did business with the competitor and created an amicable partnership.

    The Logical Flaw Of Friendshoring

    The problem with buzzworthy terms is that they tend to be defined in non-static moments.

    As the New York Times states, “Who, exactly, are your friends? In the last couple years, President Biden went from calling Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ to fist-bumping Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to vowing that the kingdom would face ‘consequences’ for teaming up with Russia.”

    • Diplomatic relations are fickle.
    • The U.S. is always looking to improve trade relations with countries.
    • On the other hand, one consequential decision can drastically affect the U.S.’s view of a particular nation.

    Geopolitical relations change in a matter of years. A company planning to set up manufacturing in a new country is likely hoping to establish an operation that will span 30 years, not three. There is inherent risk in the decision.

    That said, not all risks are equal. It only takes a reasonable amount of research to figure out which countries are more likely to remain favorable trade partners with the U.S. Alumicolor’s long-ago decision to manufacture out of El Salvador might have saved its business last year, which thrived instead of scrambling along with much of the industry.

  • 5 Mar 2023 7:17 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Has the restaurant T-shirt replaced the concert T-shirt as a must-have item? Fast-food fans these days have plenty of buzzworthy apparel, drinkware and other merch available to satisfy their cravings.

    1. Wendy's Baconator Gift Bag

    Wendy’s was an early adopter of the brand shop, establishing its merch site in 2018. The site offers everything from baby onesies to lapel pins to drinkware – plus gift bags to wrap them in. Pair the 8.5” x 11” Baconator gift bag with Wendy’s tissue paper (10 sheets per pack) to present Wendy’s-themed items like:

    Frosty-flavored lip moisturizer in classic chocolate, as well as vanilla and peppermint – and a fourth option for maple French toast sticks.

    The Dip Trip Sauce Holder clips onto a vehicle’s air vent and holds most standard sauce cups, or packets can be squeezed directly into the ramekin. No word on whether the company approves of pouring in a little bit of your Frosty to dip your hot fries (IYKYK).

    2. Raising Cane's Glossy & Saucy Nail Polish

    Louisiana-born chicken finger chain Raising Cane’s capitalizes on the cult following of its super-secret Cane’s Sauce with multiple merch options, from this Glossy & Saucy Nail Polish to lip balm and soap (both plain, not sauce-flavored or scented) and even a “dipped” cellphone case or shower curtain. The tangy condiment was voted “most craveable” in a 2021 consumer poll, with a whopping 20-point lead over second place. In November 2022, Cane’s also collaborated with Anti Social Social Club for a limited-edition streetwear line including bandannas, hoodies and more.

    3. Whataburger Fry Slippers

    Any native Texan recognizes the iconic orange and white stripes of Whataburger, but as the chain has spread across the South and beyond, the company has also made the most of its fiercely loyal following with an extensive merch shop. Products range from the practical (tees and hoodies) to the whimsical (silver charms and customized versions of the chain’s famous table tents). For example, you can keep your tootsies toasty with these plush Fry Slippers, with fuzzy “fries” bursting out of the suede velvet slip-ons.

    4. Del Toro Benihana Velvet Slippers

    For something decidedly more upscale, luxury Italian footwear brand Del Toro has partnered with Japanese steakhouse Benihana for its handmade Benihana Velvet Slippers, available in both men’s and women’s sizes and a choice of two patterns embroidered in red on black – the restaurant’s iconic hat logo or flower bouquets. Complete the look with a matching embroidered baseball cap (white). A portion of the proceeds from sales of the Benihana collection will benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

    5. Taco Bell x Tipsy Elves Hot Sauce Packet Onesie

    The first Taco Bell x Tipsy Elves Hot Sauce Packet Onesie (adult sizes) Taco Bell offered in its merch shop sold out within 24 hours. This cozy addition to the collection, which includes plenty of apparel and other product options celebrating their sauce packets – from socks and swimsuits to luggage to notebooks and pencils – drew more than 1 million visitors to the shop site within days, earning it a permanent spot in the shop.

    6. Chipotle Custom Order Tee

    Wearing merch from your favorite brand is all about identity and sharing your enthusiasm – and you are what you eat, as the old saying goes – so why not make it official and declare your burrito order to the world? Design your own Chipotle custom order tee (short- or long-sleeve) or tote bag with your favorite ingredients in black print on white fabric. The canvas totes and unisex slim-fit tees are made of GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton.

    7. Hot Pockets Cargo Shorts and Hoodie

    Just before Christmas 2022, Hot Pockets released an exclusive Hot Pockets Cargo Shorts and Hoodie giveaway that quickly “sold out” after creating major social media buzz. The kit included both garments, plus a coupon for a free two-pack of Hot Pockets, and the shorts featured two literal hot pockets – insulated pouches designed to carry the eponymous snack in cozy comfort until ready to eat.

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